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Books Sans Borders: ode to Geelong’s much loved bookshop

Not getting sentimental or anything but …

It wasn’t the predicted May 21 end of the world (hadn’t Camping read Matthew 24:36?) but, to the literary faithful of Geelong, it was something like that.

What’s now a ransacked store, with screaming signs advertising last days and a frenzied mob of customers piling their arms high with stuff they don’t need, was once a nobler place.

Borders Geelong, the two story building which had been the stomping ground of book lovers, magazine lovers, coffee lovers and the literature-curious the last couple of years in Geelong, was closing down.

This was the place where Geelongians could experience something of the cosmopolitan approach modelled in places like Melbourne bookish haunts like Readings and of course Borders, dare we again mention the name.

It was the place where Joe Blow could walk in, pick up books he was never going to buy and recline in a comfy leather (or faux? Doesn’t matter anyway, that’s probably liquidated too) arm chair.

Where you could read expensive coffee tables books worth double digits you could never justify buying, where you could read the latest edition of uber funky monkey European design magazines you never even knew existed.

A place where you could legitimately take a myriad of interesting books – cooking, history, religion, Spanish For Toddlers as well as that book you are too embarrassed to buy, whatever – and go plonk down on another comfy chair or,  even better,  spread out on one of those long benches like you owned the place – and take your time reading.

Or, as my eyes gleefully witnessed many a time, you could be like a J.K. Rowling and channel something of her Starbucks penchant (sort of)  and take your latest manuscript/secret novel to Borders and sit happily working on ir, surrounded by a latte and the perfect breeding ground for creativity – books.

Personally, I have many memories of Borders – and just even in the Gloria Jeans coffee part!I have sat there with friends and discussed hopes, dreams and what the meaning of life could be.

I have shared birthday chocolate brownies there and shouted people coffee and had friends buy me steaming hot teas there. Once, I even had a ‘date’ there.

I have sat at the long table upstairs, taking up more room than one person should take up and sat delicately by the window, checking out the view of Geelong underneath.

Sometimes, I was even squished in the corner, throngs of people all around me and even beyond that, in a whole store was filled with shoppers; hidden the gardening section to the $10 Penguin sections, sitting cross legged in the travel section and perched standing up, looking at books in the spiritual section.

I have seen Borders’ workers roaming around the stores wearing nametags saying: “My name is Zac. My passion is: MUSIC (written in a handwritten scrawl with black texta) How can I help you today?”

And I have seen busy-looking staff striding around holding Walkie Talkies and jogging up the stairs, ready to punch in a customer’s enquiry into a nearby computer.

Only a few months ago I discovered Borders had its own customer bathroom, which was not really advertised.

That’s not really newsworthy, and at the time of my discovery it certainly didn’t really seem so, however now – as I fight the little bit of nostalgia which threatens my journalistic credibility – I can’t help but muse on it.

If Borders was a person and this was the funeral for Borders and I was chosen to speak something about Borders, here’s what I would say:

Fighting nerves and pretending you’re all in your underwear (actually no, bad idea) to fight the public speaking nerves, here’s what I would say:

*Clearing throat* “Fellow friends, bookworms, Starwars fans, eccentrics, people who work in academia, people who cancel parties because they’re reading an addictive novel, people who live in their head and daydream and people who detest certain inconvenient aspects of globalisation yet admit they don’t mind certain coffee chains because of the free WI FI, etc., thank you all for coming to this very special day where we remember a friend.

A very special friend.

A friend we all just affectionately knew simply as Borders.

Borders, Borders, what can I say about Him. Or her/it?

Borders was a lovely fellow. He was born in … actually I don’t know.

And he attended … whatever school he went to.

Anyways, Borders was a lovely chap. He really was. He was exceedingly generous and was known for making some libraries look – well less than appealing.

Of course, Borders was a shrewd fellow and his generosity never extended past the store entry.

If some little punk tried to steal a bit of Borders, he had no qualms in setting off a noisy alarm and alerting his staff. Borders always dreamed of the day when he could abandon this almost medieval system and implement benign yet salivating German shepherds to do the job instead.

Poor Borders had many dreams and visions for his Geelong store but the biggest one was this: he wanted to instill a love of reading in all who came to visit. That they would leave his store with a book, not just its paperweight qualities or its benefit of filling one’s bookshelf.

He wanted people to leave with a good book because he knew that books – education, learning, wisdom, knowledge, ideas, an inquiry mind – would make the world a better place.

Borders has now left us and gone to a better, another place. I’m not sure if Borders made his peace with God before he left but Something tells me that the spirit of Borders will surely live on in Geelong, even though it may seem bleak for a while.”

My eulogy continued on but the rest of it is a bit same same. Talking about Borders’ pet hate of dog-earing pages, his encouragement of all people to use bookmarks, that sort of thing.

Unfortunately Borders didn’t leave any messages for us still on earth although I think we can all probably guess what he would have us do:

“Keep reading, punk.”

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